There are very few women that draw respect in the sports world as equal if not superior to that of men. Pat Summitt is one.
8 NCAA Women’s Division I championships. 84.33% winning percentage. Focus on the one thing that is most important. In 2000 Pat Summitt was inducted to the basketball Hall of Fame. Not the women’s. The Hall of Fame. Transcending gender. That’s respect. At the University of Tennessee she is god. There is no male/female reference. Just top of the food chain in the Volunteers athletic department.
When word broke that she was suffering from dementia and the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, my heart almost broke. At only 59. Pat Summitt will continue to coach, but for how long? How long til it overcomes her decision making and ability to run one of women’s most successful college basketball programs? The word great is the most overused term in sports. But that is exactly what Pat Summitt is… GREAT.
50 years from now… Someone will look and see her name. They will dare ask whether she was a myth? After all, who compiles stats like hers? No coach on any level in any sport. Geno Auriemma is impressive. He even has stats to compete with Pat Summitt. But fair or not, he’s diminished for being a man in a woman’s game. And while successful as he is… He wasn’t first. People in 50 years will ask a loud like they do about Vince Lombardi, John Wooden and the like, was Pat Summitt that great? Could she transcend generations? In 50 years would a in her prime Pat Summitt still be able to win championships in an ever changing game? In a word… yes.
That’s what makes Pat Summitt one of the greatest coaches in sports history. Not just women’s or even basketball, but sports. She has a mean streak. And that along with her pugnacious determination is why I don’t believe she is done yet. That is why I believe despite her diminished abilities that she will still have Tennessee very competitive this season. She doesn’t want your pity. She wants to win. She wants your blood. She will not settle for anything less than a full effort from her players. To her, records mean nothing. The only thing that matters is winning.
Only she knows how much longer she will continue to coach and how this will affect her on a daily and yearly basis. She will have good days and bad days to be sure. But if there is a coach that can fight through it then it’s Pat Summitt. Great is overused, but in this case she is more, she is a legend. Our thoughts are with Pat and we all hope she continues to coach for many years to come. When she leaves the game, I hope it’s on her terms and not the disease. The one thing that no one will ever question is that when it comes to Pat Summitt, respect is the only word that matters.